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North Ribblesdale sunk as Phoenix pack rise to the challenge
Doncaster Phoenix 31 North Ribblesdale 6
North Ribblesdale felt that the scoreline was a harsh reflection of their performance against third-placed Phoenix in Yorkshire Division One.
The six points they registered was scant reward for a gutsy effort from what was a much changed and young side.
They took the game to the massive home outfit and caused a lot of problems in the midfield where Jonathan Richards, Josh McFarlane and Johnny Moore were a handful for Doncaster’s defence all day.
Unfortunately they lacked the finishing power to punish Doncaster who took full advantage of the penalties Ribb conceded to score their tries.
They simply kicked to the corner and used their massive pack to rumble over from well executed drives. It was a tactic the lightweight Ribb pack had no answer to.
On a pitch that was firm, Ribb started well. McFarlane penetrated the home 22 with a good break but Ribb lost the ball due to lack of support.
Doncaster cleared but Ryan Gill, who had a very good game, brought the ball back swerving past his startled opposite number. When he was tackled on the 22 Doncaster were penalised and Richards slotted over the kick.
Ribb extended their lead after counter attacking from the restart. Richards weaved his way past a number of tacklers before Doncaster again transgressed as they tried to halt Moore as he attempted to penetrate the defence on a crash ball. Richards made no mistake with the penalty.
It was clear that this young side was not going to lie down and they gave Doncaster another scare when McFarlane caused panic in their ranks.
Doncaster realised that they had to change tactics. Their stand-off Ben Millar started to kick the ball deep.
The visitors should have opted to counter attack but instead they continually kicked the ball back and provided the big Doncaster pack with the ammunition they needed to hammer into the Ribb midfield.
Tenacious tackling kept them out until the pressure told when Doncaster kicked for the corner and drove over from the resulting line-out for a converted try.
Doncaster maintained the pressure and repeated the tactic to secure a further converted try.
A penalty by Miller extended their lead to 17-6 at half-time.
Ribb were still full of fight and rugby and they started the second half brightly with Moore and McFarlane causing problems in the centre.
If there was a criticism it was simply that they did not make best use of their most penetrating runner Ryan Gill who saw little ball on the right wing.
Doncaster halted the early Ribb momentum and asserted their authority with a converted try from a lot of pressure on the visitors’ line.
Their back row was probably two stones heavier per man than Ribb’s and the pressure told.
Callum Wilson was introduced to the game as replacement for John Thwaites who will be absent for a few weeks.
The change made no discernible impact on the scrum which was a solid as ever but injuries to influential Matt Speres and scrum half Peter Cook, which forced them to go off, did cause disruption Speres was suffering from concussion while Cook cut his head open and had to be replaced by Michael Thwaite.
Ribb battled on but lacked the fire power to capitalise on their best work. Doncaster scored a last try which gave them a bonus point when Ribb unwisely tried to run out of their own 22.
This was also converted for a final score that did not reflect Ribb’s part in a thoroughly entertaining game.
If there is one criticism it is that Ribb forget their game plan which was to kick to the corners and turn the big Doncaster pack.
Ribb entertain Doncaster’s neighbours Wath on Saturday and it promises to be another hard game. Ribb do have Simon Bolland on the bench and his pace should be a useful weapon.
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